What’s a Bioblitz? It’s Time to Prepare for the City Nature Challenge!

A bright blue indigo bunting sits on a tree branch.

If you haven’t heard of or participated in a bioblitz before, it’s a great way to build your outdoor observation skills – while also helping biologists. The City Nature Challenge 2022 is one of the largest bioblitzes in the world and is open for everyone to participate.

During the City Nature Challenge 2021, citizen scientists from 419 cities in 44 countries made 1,270,767 nature observations! Here’s how we did in 2021 in the Cincinnati – Hamilton County area:

  • 260 people participated
  • 807 species documented
  • 3,414 observations made
  • Most importantly, we beat Columbus, Ohio!

Bioblitz events like this recruit volunteers to help identify organisms in a certain area during a short timeframe. You don’t have to be an expert to participate; there are tools and other participants to help confirm what you find. It does help to have a few resources at your disposal though, so to help you prepare, we’re sharing a few tips and some things to think about.

A monarch caterpillar sits on a plant. The caterpillar is striped with white, black, and yellow stripes along its body.
Monarchs are found across Hamilton County, like this monarch caterpillar climbing a plant. (Photo courtesy Jack Sutton)

Pick a Place

Think about what you’re interested in. If you’d like to look for frogs, you could pick a park with a trail near a pond or wetland. If you’re more curious about flowers and butterflies, you could find a trail by a prairie or meadow. The Wetland Loop Trail at Glenwood Gardens and Shaker Trace Outer Loop at Miami Whitewater Forest come to mind for each of these examples, respectively. Or, if you’re up for an adventure, you could choose a park and trail you’ve never been to! There’s a lot to see once you’re outside and paying attention, so it can help to focus on a small section, maybe 5 square feet to start.

Prepare by Gathering Resources

There are a lot of great resources out there to help you identify everything from birds to plants. These include eBird, iNaturalist and Seek, to name a few; although accuracy will depend on photo quality and other factors. In case reception is bad or you don’t have a smartphone, it’s also good to have field guides handy. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has a wonderful set of field guides for different organisms available for free. Depending on what you’re looking for, a hand lens or pair of binoculars might also help, but those aren’t as essential as water and a sense of curiosity.

A group of people look through binoculars and telescopes during a bioblitz at a park.
Observant participants in a bioblitz. (Photo courtesy National Park Service)

Observe From Afar

While we want to know what life is out there, we don’t want to trample any animals or plants in the process. It’s best to observe wildlife from a distance or take up-close photos of plants from a trail. Rather than picking flowers or taking things from the park, we need to leave them for others to enjoy and help identify. Picking up behind you and following good Leave No Trace practices is also a habit of great bioblitz participants.

Watch Your Step!

Hazards like poison ivy and ticks are something you need to be aware of as well. A hat, sunblock, bug spray and closed-toed shoes are always recommended when hitting the trail.

As like last year, Great Parks is thrilled to partner with Cincinnati Park Board and other local community groups to organize and host the City Nature Challenge 2022. This an annual worldwide bioblitz is held for one week in the spring. If you aren’t sure what to look for, feel free to chat with our nature interpreters about what would be good to look for. Great Parks staff will also be leading programming as part of this bioblitz, so keep an eye out on our calendar for programs where you can join in on fun.

City Nature Challenge 2022 Cincinnati – Hamilton County

When: April 29–May 2, 2022

Event details: This bioblitz is open to everyone! You didn’t have to participate in the City Nature Challenge 2021 to join or other past bioblitzes. Find more information on the City Nature Challenge website.

Once the bioblitz portion of City Nature Challenge is complete, from May 3–8, 2022, all the species cataloged will be identified and saved to a database. The information collected will aid in community programming and education, learn about controlling invasive species, and help prioritize natural areas in need of further preservation efforts.

Happy blitzing!

Jessica Spencer
Director of Natural Resources

Great Parks of Hamilton County is not affiliated with and is not receiving any compensation from eBird, iNaturalist or Seek.